Protecting Free Speech From Those Who Demand It, But Deny Others

The expression “ugly” or “naked” truth hits one squarely in the face. No makeup, costumes or other tricks of the trade, just plain, exposed reality. One we often do not like when we see it.

Many times it takes a child, someone naiive, unbiased and innocent, to expose things as they really are, not the way we have grown accustomed to see them. Without any pretense or illusion, without lighting or sound effects, the child declares, “Naked is the King,” and we are astonished at the simple truth we see for the very first time.

I remember sitting at dinner prior to a play with a group of friends, one of whom is a Regent of the University of California, Los Angeles. I was talking about the hatred toward anything Israel and by extension anything Jewish on UC campuses. I was an outsider among this group of friends, so I was politely but firmly dismissed.

Although my ears were not burning later, I would not have been surprised to learn I was called a pessimist, an extremist or an alarmist. In the group setting, it was politically incorrect to say anything, so I was handled gently. The way a person treats a sick child or an adult on his deathbed. Or someone merely to be tolerated, but not taken seriously.

A year later I was once again invited to join the same group of friends for dinner and a play. I was the beneficiary of the extra season ticket when one couple fell out.

The discussion again centered around Judaism on campus. Oh, how their positions had changed. Finally they had started to feel something was wrong. “Suddenly” I was not that off-the-wall, my warnings and diatribes were no longer dismissed as foolish, but rather faced as a new reality. I did not feel vindicated, just saddened that reality finally hit center stage.

In this very series we have, over the past three years, been the target of numerous adjectives and descriptions. None of these, however, is sufficient to camouflage or change the truth. Personal attacks do not make the truth thinner or lighter, taller or stronger. They simply reflect badly on the attacker.

no free speech
No free speech unless you loudly demand it and deny others

Why was I still worried? Finally there was a Regent “feeling” that something was wrong under her watch. I looked around at this group of very influential philanthropists in a position to fight back, to react. I knew, though, that the small steps toward recognizing the problem were insufficient.

The enemies of the West and of free speech and the blatant Anti-Semites are galloping forward ushering hatred never before experienced. The realization by those who defended and enabled them all along that their behavior has been dangerous was insufficient to drive them into necessary action or to stop the advancement.

Allow me to use the following analogy: Even when the actual condition in the reactors in Japan, following the earthquake-tsunami of 2011, was finally ascertained, the drastic steps necessary to protect the population and environment were not taken. The Japanese will suffer silently, their national honor at stake, but radiation leakage finds its way around the globe, spreading to fish in the ocean and to the atmosphere above us, its aftermath devastating to us all.

Circumstances sometimes call for drastic measures, but it is human nature to ignore, hope for the better and expect miracles to happen. People are then forced to react when faced with a full-blown problem threatening to overtake them. By then, the situation is already critical, and appropriate measures are more painful, and often unsuccessful, as when cancer strikes and has spread throughout the body.

Following this dinner, several months later in fact, the Israeli Ambassador to the USA was to speak on the Irvine campus. A group of Israel supporters came to hear him speak hours earlier at a nearby Church event, but none agreed to join me later at UCI. Everyone knew what was about to happen.

The enemies of the West and Israel demand access, the ability to speak and the respect of others to listen to what they have to say. They, however, are under no obligation to honor any of these courtesies themselves.

In their minds it is perfectly legitimate for them to silence others, preventing both the speaker’s right to speak and the listeners’ right to listen. When removed for disturbing the peace, their tirades continue outside, using megaphones and loudspeakers to drown out others. When this does not work, they threaten with violence, and if terror fails, they do not hesitate to resort to actual, physical violence.

At their “events,” all hate speech is acceptable. Not even the slightest disturbance is tolerated. Hired “body-guards,” ex-prisoners or foreign-looking men are used to patrol and guard lest anyone dare to speak. Photography and videotaping is prohibited. Those who hold pro-West or pro-Israel positions are not allowed access and the police are called to remove such persons. Seemingly, there is no end to their Chutzpa, but no one stands up to them, not even the police.

A feeling of fear preempts their events, and there is a feeling of terror whenever they appear. Often times they are not students, faculty or staff, rather outsiders coming to establish “Sharia Law” on campus.

Jewish students are ill equipped and ill prepared to handle these instigations. Their “Jewish experience” ended sometime after their Bat or Bar Mitzva (“reaching adulthood” ceremony, at 12 for girls and 13 for boys). There was a gap for five to six years, and then they entered a university, where ideas should be exchanged in a safe environment to learn, advance, discover, explore and expand.

This preconceived notion of what the university experience should be about is shattered when the brutal reality of those trying to silence us-the West and Israel-takes center stage.

No one is able to stop them, because no one stands in their way. For a very long time the upper echelon ignored the situation, while the infestation grew into a plague. Clearly one could not profess, “I did not know,” for the signs were quite visible: Professors bashing Israel in courses having nothing to do with Israel, directly or indirectly.

Allowing “Apartheid Weeks” and “Racism Weeks” on campus. Allowing speeches and rallies comparing Israelis to Nazis and every possible poisonous and vile attack against the Jewish People and Israel. All was dressed as “freedom of speech” or “academic freedom;” the “Freedoms” to murder Israel and the West while passersby continued their hurried stroll.

I remember driving the lecturer to a UCI lecture I attended. A famous authority on Middle East, he is revered by many as the top scholars on the subject and labeled by others the most dangerous person against Islam. Why? Because the Islamists do not like what he has to say. He presents the truth without any pretense, the truths they constantly try to hide and bury under makeup and make believe.

The police had to escort us from our arrival to campus to the parking, then to a waiting room, then the lecture hall and back. They checked for explosives under my car. The Islamists-member of the Muslim Student Union and others-wore tapes over their mouths. During the Pledge of Allegiance, they remained seated in protest. To the audience, their defiance was disrespectful to the country that welcomed them. Later, as the distinguished professor started to speak, they disrupted him continuously. One person after another rose and shouted insults. As soon as one was removed another stood.

They gathered outside and continued the mayhem designed to prevent the speaker from speaking and the audience from hearing. It was their “right,” and the police did not intervene.

It took many dress rehearsals until those in charge of the University understood the real threat to civil society. They allowed hate speech to continue far too long and did not take measures to stop the spread of hatred, but instead protected it.

By allowing the spread of a disease aimed at someone else (Israel or the Jews), its effects against population X can be applied against population Y. The true discovery is that it has little to do with Israel. It is designed to conquer America.

The Muslims, incidentally, understand this all too well. Thus, terror attacks against Israel (like homicide or road side bombings) have been exported from Israel to Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Britain, Spain and elsewhere. The simple truth is it works very well elsewhere as it does against the Jews.

Similarly at a university: If we do not stand up when “blacks” are targeted, why would anyone stand up when “Jews” are the focus? We are have been trained and are so sensitive about African-Americans (thanks in large part to Jews who stood up, some half a century ago, and fought). But we have been desensitized to the ever-worsening plight of the Jews and Israel. The demonization of the latter is so effective that anything bad that happens to “them” is justified; even by fellow Jews.

Once, not very long ago, the situation was different. When I was a student at UCLA one could safely hold an event about Israel or wear a Kippa (yarmulke) or a shirt with the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) name and symbol on it. One did not need to hide or fear, because frankly, people did not really care.

Recently at a conference at my Alma Mater, the hundreds of attendees had to enter via metal detectors, the UCLA police was in full force, hate literature was distributed outside (it is their “right”), once seated inside they stood one by one and shouted insults and anti-Israel slogans. Finally all removed from the lecture hall, they started the performance outside. Deja-vu.

At another conference, held by the Islamists-UCLA was chosen specifically since the location would add credence and send a signal (even though the University had nothing to do with the conference other than renting space it should not have rented)-the atmosphere was the Communist era. If you veered right or left, looked in a way that someone else did not like, tried to record or photograph, even raised a question that MIGHT have sounded pro-Israel or the West, you were headed out, escorted by vicious-looking guards who look like they developed their muscles on tax payers expense and would enjoy nothing more than have the opportunity to teach you a lesson.

We must restore sanity, but that will only happen when people see the naked truth with their own eyes. Until such times, my descriptions will be dismissed as nothing more than ranting, and even those who know me well continue to refuse to believe. They listen politely and dismiss what I say with a smile of a parent at a lost youth or elderly parents adamant of their way.

Until they experience Islamist hatred first hand.

I just hope it will not be too late. They will be overwhelmed then, like Japan was with the Tsunami that followed the Big Earthquake. Japan was ready and trained constantly. We are not. We choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the threat, while the devilish dance getting closer and closer around us, threatening to suffocate us.

An earthquake cannot be forecasted, nor can a major Tsunami. Seconds, minutes or at most hours may be the time frame for a warning. Here the process lasts years, and the enemy becomes more emboldened and more sophisticated with every passing day.

I just watched a segment of a speech in San Francisco before a Jewish Film Festival. The pro-Israel, Pro-West speaker was interrupted so many times by the audience with boos and shouts that I was immediately reminded of “those demanding free speech but preventing it for everyone else.” The segment is from 2009, and changes are only for worse.

We must all stand up now to protect our most basic rights. As they disappear, who will ensure we get them back?

Protecting Israel is nothing short of protecting the West and America. We must stand up when lies are spread, when terror is employed to instill fear. We must stand together to protect what is most dear to us – life in the United States of America, as we know it.

In the series “Postcards from Israel,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers throughout the world to join them as they present reports from Israel as seen by two sets of eyes: Bussel’s on the ground, Zager’s counter-point from home. Israel and the United States are inter-related – the two countries we hold dearest to our hearts – and so is this “point – counter-point” presentation that has, since 2008, become part of our lives.